If you can, imagine someone taking a group of human beings against their will and connecting them together by their digestive systems. Sound disturbing to you? It should. Now, can you believe that is the premise of a film that is hitting a movie screen near you? Well it is. You better get yourself prepared. So now you’re probably sitting there in front of your computer asking yourself, “Who’s twisted mind did this originate from?” Well that mind belongs to none other than writer, director, and producer Tom Six. Already successful overseas, this young director is looking to make a big splash and establish himself with American audiences. With controversial and disturbing ideas like ‘The Human Centipede’, he will undoubtely become a mainstay of the horror genre for years to come. Remember the name Tom Six, we have a feeling he is destined for big things. Steve Johnson of Icon vs. Icon recently caught up with Six to talk about his influences, his thoughts on horror remakes, and of course his controversial film ‘The Human Centipede’ and its recently announced sequel.
Where did you grow up?
Yeah sure. I grew up in a little village very near Amsterdam. I had a very happy childhood with my sister with who I am producing films now. So absolutely nothing special.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
I always say I think I have some sort of film making gene because when I was a very little boy I was already working with a camera and shooting stuff. While my parents have nothing to do with film making, it’s just something I have inside me. Of course I watched a lot of movies. As many as I could watch. Then I started my career in television and then together with my sister, I started a production company and we started making films.
Do you have any influences, be it other directors or otherwise?
Yeah! Yeah! Sure. A real influence was the work, especially the early work, of David Cronenberg. I think he made some really atmospheric, cool films. ‘Shivers’ and ‘The Brood’, and ‘The Fly’, and ‘Crash’. He’s definitely an influence.
You are a director, writer, editor, and producer. Is there one aspect of film making that you prefer over the others?
I really love the writing part because I really love creating something. You have so much fun when you write and you know it will end up on the screen. That’s so incredibly fun. Then I really love the casting process and making the film itself, which is very tiring. I absolutely love the editing part also. It’s great putting the stuff together. So I think the whole discipline is very cool.
You mentioned you liked the writing aspect. What is the typical screenwriting process like for you?
The idea is just there. Suddenly I get a great idea and then I think, “OK. This is the basis.” If the idea is really working, the writing comes itself. Somehow the script has to be born from my head. If I have a story which is not working somehow, I instantly know it will be nothing and I throw it away. So it seems like some scripts have to be born and others don’t.
Tell us a bit about your films prior to ‘The Human Centipede’.
Sure. They are Dutch films with Dutch language. Two of them are black comedies and one is a children’s film. So something completely different than horror of course. I’ve always wanted to make horror films, but the Dutch market is not very for horror films. There’s not a big market. So when we made our first international film, we always knew it had to be a horror film. So this time we could make one.
Speaking of horror films, remaking classic movies is the current rage in Hollywood. As a writer and director what are your feelings on this latest trend?
Some films are iconic films, so it’s very hard to top them. They should only stay with the original. There are films with the techniques of today… It’s cool that they make them again for new audiences with all these new kinds of special effects. They can improve the classics. If it’s really a classic, as a director, it would be awful to make one if I had to. You always have to try to do it better than the classic, which sometimes is almost impossible I think.
For those who might not have had the chance to check out the trailer for ‘The Human Centipede’, how would you best describe the film?
I think it’s…. That’s a tricky one. I think it’s about a very sick surgeon that in his working life separated Siamese twins and now that he’s retired, he wants to create something. He wants to sew people together. So he wants to create one single digestive system and it’s just the way he wants to do it. So there’s nothing else that surgeon wants to do. That makes him the ultimate evil guy I think. There are no stories of his childhood or something. He’s just pure evil and that’s what I like.
How did you first come up with the idea for ‘The Human Centipede’?
It was a very simple idea. I always made this very sick joke to friends over watching television about a child molester on television or something. I said, “They should stitch his mouth to the ass of a very fat truck driver. That would be a very good punishment for him.” Everybody went, “Aw that’s a horrible idea.” I thought, “It is a horrible idea and it might be a great basic idea for a film.” That’s how it all started. It was a very simple joke.
Given the subject matter, how did you ever gather a cast for the film?
That was the difficult part. Especially the two actresses. We wanted to cast American actresses and a lot of them only want to be pretty in films. We asked women to sit on their hands and knees and be very ugly for most of the film. Of course the idea was very fresh. We did the casting in New York. I drew pictures of the human centipede and I showed them to every actress that was cast. A lot of them went, “You’re crazy!” They thought I was some maniac and they would never work with me on such a film. The smart ones stayed. They really wanted to know more about the story and I explained to them in detail what was going to happen. Then of course came the moment of truth when they had to sit on their hands and knees with their mouth very close to a butt in front of them. Not every actress could do that. They thought they could, but they couldn’t. In the end, the two girls that gave the best performance… They were actually the two lead actresses in the film.
What was the biggest challenge for you while working on the set of ‘The Human Centipede’?
I think working with the human centipede itself. Of course it has a lot of special makeup effects. It’s really strange as a director because your actresses are half naked and you have to say, “OK. We’ve got to shoot it now. Take your positions.” People sit on their hands and knees with their mouth very close to a butt and you’re standing there for ten hours a day looking at this strange thing. The crew had the same thing. It’s very absurd all the time. So there’s a lot of humor on the set of course. Bathroom humor, as you can imagine. At the same time it’s very stressful for the actresses because it’s very hard on your body to sit on your hands and knees for a long time next to a butt. Of course your naked, vulnerable, and you have this crazy German actor walking around you. So there were really a lot of strange emotions on the set.
There has been some talk that the film’s “villain” Dr. Heider may reach the status of other famous horror icons such as Jason and Freddy. What are your thoughts on that statement?
It’s an incredible compliment and honor. That has a lot to do with the brilliance of Dieter Laser, who’s really an acting dinosaur. He’s played in a lot of movies already, but he’s not very well known in the U.S. of course. This guy… His face is incredible. His charisma. His voice. The way he portrays this doctor makes it so very scary. I could never imagine anybody else playing that role. It was like he was born for this role.
How has the film been received?
It’s amazing. It has been an amazing ride. It has been shown at so many festivals all over the world. From Japan, to Stockholm, to South America, and the U.S. of course. Every time we went to a festival, there was a huge buzz going on around this film. As a filmmaker you feel really proud of course. It comes from the basic idea. Everybody talks about this idea and they think it’s pretty messed up of course. When you win awards and you get so much attention, it’s very cool as a filmmaker to experience. Now that it’s coming out in theaters in the U.S., it’s even better of course. It’s incredible.
The film opens nationwide in the U.S. on May 7th. When can we expect a DVD/Blu-Ray release in the U.S.?
I don’t know yet. Of course it’s coming out on DVD, but I have no idea when it will be released.
I saw that you are doing a second sequence to the film. Tell us a little about that.
I had a lot of ideas, which I couldn’t put in part one because the basic idea is so sick already. The first one is for the audience to get used to the idea. In ‘The Human Centipede Full Sequence’ I can use all of my ideas. There’s going to be a centipede of twelve people. I always say at festivals, “Part one will be My Little Pony compared to part two!” So I’m really going to create some horrible stuff in there and also use the black humor again. Hopefully, it works out.
Will the second sequence include more blood and gore?
Yeah! Yeah! Gorier than the first one!
Do you have any other future film projects that we should be on the look out for?
Yes. I’m working on more films. All in the horror, drama, thriller genre. I think that genre is the best and has very little limits. I’m going to shoot the sequel in October. Afterward I want to shoot a film in L.A. That will also be horror because I want to explore that genre much more. I always want to make something original, so I can’t tell what it’s about yet. It’s going to be something shocking again. Totally different than The Human Centipede, but something crazy again.
What is the best piece of advice that someone has given you along the way in your career?
I like all of these people who say, “Just do it! Just go for it! Whatever happens, just go through the process!” It’s very exhausting being a filmmaker because you give your little baby to the audience and they can say very ugly stuff. There are people that say, “Go on and go on.” That’s the spirit for me as well. Never stop.
That being said, do you have an advice for anyone who would like to get involved in the entertainment industry?
Yeah, definitely. I think if you are a writer or a director, create something original. People will talk about originality. So many people write stuff that has been done a thousand times. So many films and series are being made, so you really have to stand out to get attention. So that’s why I advise all young filmmakers to make something really original.
Do you have any last words?
No. I’ll stick to my advice for young filmmakers. I hope of course everybody wants to see my film. That’s the thing you hope as a filmmaker, that as many people as possible will see your film.
Good luck and maybe we can catch up with you in the future.
Great! Thanks so much!